Braun: Sept. 11 ‘Jersey Girls’ mostly leave high-profile activism to others these days | NJ.com
Like so many people in our area, the tragic events of 911 changed me forever.
This past Sunday I read the article in the Star Ledger about the ” Jersey Girls.”
I spent many days and nights with the “Jersey Girls“ in connection with representing thier families in the 911 Victim’s Compensation Fund.
These are extraodrinary people and American heroins.
We met at their homes, mostly. They arranged for me to meet other families
at similar gatherings. They quickly learned the
regulatory process and made their presence known to countless Senators
and Congressional delegates. They were truly a force to be reckoned
with. With their help, we were able to shape the regulations and
get the word out to numerous deserving families.
The families wanted answers. They wanted to know why this
happened, if there was any forewarning, and what could be done
in the future to prevent another such incident. They pressed for a
commission to investigate. They were relentless in their pursuit.
They had the cell phone numbers of many members of Congress
and did not hesitate to keep on the pressure. Ultimately, the 9/11
Commission was appointed and chaired by former Governor Tom
Kean. The efforts of the Jersey Girls were a big reason for the Commission
and the final report which bolstered our security.
Ultimately, I personally represented all but one of the Jersey
Girls before Kenneth Feinberg, who was in charge of administering
the 9-11 Compensation Fund. In order to prepare for the hearings,
I leamed everything there was to know about their families. My mis·
sion had become to make sure that I secured enough compensation
so that the children in these families would be able to have the
things their deceased fathers and mothers dreamt they should have,
keep their homes, afford college, etc. As part of the process, I made
a movie to present about each family, their love, their loss, etc. It
was my job to make sure Mr. Feinberg understood these issues. We
were not talking about numbers or statistics. We were talking about
people. Statistics, after all, are people with the tears wiped away.
At the same time, other lawyers from all over the country were
doing the same thing. When the process was over, the lawyers from
Trial Lawyers Care had secured billions of dollars in compensation
and never took a single penny of compensation. It was the greatest
project I ever participated in as a lawyer, I learned so much from
these women. I learned about life, love, perseverance, and the power
of resolve to make a difference in the world.
Most ofthe families have moved on with their lives, Many have
moved. Some stay in touch. This was a very painful time and many
have chosen to close as many of those doors as possible in order to
protect themselves from the horrors of that day.
For me, I will never be the same. I am so proud of all the
lawyers who helped us. When I hear lawyer jokes, I think of the
lawyer from South Dakota who left his practice and moved to New
York for two years to do nothing but help his fellow Americans and
the hundreds of others who made similar sacrifices,